Indie Collaborative co-founder Eileen Bluestone Sherman likes having her hands full. She’s a playwright, lyricist, young adult novelist, television writer, theater/music producer — and producer of events such as “Celebrating Earth Day in Song.” The Indie Collaborative Earth Day concert returns to the Weill Recital space in Carnegie Hall on April 25th. More than 20 award-winning IC artists perform, featuring a unique blend of musical genres (rock, classical, jazz, Americana, theatrical) at this legendary venue. Not only will each artist offer a unique contribution to the concert, but in the true IC spirit, artists would cross genres furnishing additional musical accompaniment for many of the songs.
And Sherman herself is no stranger to such stages as Carnegie Hall. In one way or another, her music has been heard in such venues as Lincoln Center, The Bitter End, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Symphony Space, and to radio airwaves worldwide,
In writing musical theater, she collaborates with her sister Gail C. Bluestone. The Bluestone Sisters’ music continues to delight audiences of all ages. Eileen (book and lyrics) and Gail (music) began their musical theater collaboration at Hallmark’s Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, which soon led to them contributing scripts to Chicago’s popular musical children’s television series, “The Magic Door.” This ultimately brought their music to the New York stage and Broadway recording studios with a host of Tony Award winners. including such Broadway super stars as Elaine Stritch, Sutton Foster, Hal Linden, Andrea McArdle, Donna McKechnie, Beth Leavel, Lillias White, and Judd Hirsch.
As for her writing, Sherman has published her first two young adult novels including the award-winning titles “Monday In Odessa” and “Independence Avenue.” In addition to the new paperback, “The Violin Players” is also available as an audio book, read by the author. Perhaps her most popular story is “The Odd Potato,” originally a picture book, adapted for stage, television, and a CD, starring 20 Tony Award Winning performers.
Through the years, Sherman’s work received numerous honors, including two Emmy Awards for Chicago Television, the National Jewish Book Award, and The International Reading Association Teachers’ Choice Award.
The storyline for this two-act presentation of music celebrating Earth Day begins with the possibilities and newness of “The Beginning” and continues with the “Reality” of the situations. Originally scheduled for April 2020, the show was put off to April 2021, and then once again to April 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The artists are looking forward to making this dream a reality.
Here is Sherman’s response to a set of questions about the IC and this upcoming event.
Q: How did this whole thing start?
ES: The story of the Indie Collaborative is quite remarkable. But let me tell you a bit about my own background to explain how it all came about.
My career has taken me in many different directions. From New York stages to Chicago television to book tours throughout the USA, it ultimately led me into the recording studio. Honestly, no step along the way was specifically planned. One just seemed to evolve into the next, and that’s a fair description of how I became the co-founder of the Indie Collaborative with one of Billboard’s top-charting Americana Roots singers/songwriters, Grant Maloy Smith.
It goes without saying that the worlds of theater and music are, historically, “cutting edge.” It’s no wonder that both industries immediately recognized the power of social media. To my own amazement, my book and theater fans, as well as independent artists (initially all strangers to me), started to write to me via Facebook. Virtual acquaintances blossomed.
Suddenly, I was getting personal invitations left and right from performers who were appearing in all sorts of venues throughout Manhattan. Of course, I went! I wanted to meet these artists in real life. Without fail, I was blown away by the immense talent. Each and every one was so unique but all were superior musicians.
That’s when this idea started brewing in my crazy producer’s brain. What if I put together an event where independent artists from all different sectors of the entertainment world could meet one another to share ideas, inspire one another, and who knows, maybe even collaborate on new projects. I even knew where I wanted to hold this event, but I also understood I needed a partner in this endeavor.
Fast forward to December 2014, when I was invited to have cocktails with a couple of gal-pal musicians, I had met via Facebook. While sipping a cosmo, I nonchalantly mentioned my idea. “Oh, you should get in touch with Grant Maloy Smith,” I was told. We had never met, but Grant’s sterling reputation preceded him. All the musicians on Facebook adored Grant (and his signature cowboy hat). And why not? His daily posts were hilarious, and he had a kind word for everyone.
I messaged Grant and told him I hoped we would get a chance to say “hello” a few weeks later at the Grammy Awards in LA. Before that weekend, our worlds of musical theater and Americana Roots had no reason to intersect but on a fateful Sunday morning in February 2015, everything changed.
Thank goodness for that cowboy hat! Otherwise, I still might be searching for Grant in a sea of sequins, satin, and stilettos. When I finally approached him, I don’t think I said more than two sentences, and he responded, “I’m in.” What I didn’t know was that Grant was already contemplating a similar idea.
As fate would have it, Grant was scheduled to perform at New York’s famed Bitter End in the spring. I promised I would be there to cheer him on, as long as he joined me the next morning at the new headquarters of the Drama League in Tribeca. I wanted him to check out the space and its sound equipment. Once he gave his blessing to my choice of venue, the two of us sat down on the sofa in the reception area, and in about 20 minutes, we outlined what eventually would become The Indie Collaborative.
Our mission was simple and clear-cut. Foster friendship and unique collaborations among professionals from every part of the music world — musicians, vocalists, promoters, publicists, engineers, educators, producers, radio hosts, photographers, lyricists, composers, conductors, arrangers, etc. and from every genre- classical, hip-hop, world music, jazz, children’s music, spoken word, Latin, electronic, country, film scores, and so on. We would be a resource and a sounding board for one another.
We had no desire to create yet another glitzy award ceremony, or even, charge dues for that matter. We would leave that to the Big-Boy organizations. On the contrary! We wanted to provide an environment where serious artists, everywhere in the world, young and old, established, or still learning the ropes, could experiment with new ideas and not fear the consequences of coming up short. For us, this new community of independent artists would be solely about camaraderie, exploration, and creation among professional colleagues in the entertainment field.
Grant and I had no idea if anyone else would share our enthusiasm or even show up to our first get-together, but on June 8, 2015, the modest social hall at the Drama League was bulging at the seams with 77 (comfortable at about 60). We sat on metal folding chairs (which we had meticulously set up an hour earlier) and Grant called on folks seat by seat. Some at the keyboard, others with guitar, violin, sax, trumpet, or bass, in hand, performed excerpts of their original music; others just spoke. It was truly fascinating — a show-and-tell in a room of mostly strangers, who just happen to be award-winning musicians.
Honestly, Grant and I were simply relieved that our idea didn’t bomb. We never anticipated what happened next. Once more, social media played the role of “Lady Luck.” While artists performed, cell phones in the audience kept clicking and suddenly, photos of the event appeared online in real-time.
As Grant hosted, he continued to receive messages from artists around the country, asking when we would be coming to “their city” to produce an Indie Collaborative? Thrilled that our idea (and name) took hold, we organized similar events in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nashville, and San Francisco. In no time, our 77 intrigued strangers blossomed into over 2000 caring friends and collaborators worldwide. Thanks to Grant’s many talents, an impressive website followed.
It’s no exaggeration to say that every Indie Collaborative event offers the same promise. Independent artists enter as strangers and leave as new collaborators. Lyricists find composers; songwriters find vocalists; music producers find engineers. I am always delighted to see credits for an award-winning song or album that includes a combination of our talented members.
These amazing collaborations have resulted in many of Billboard’s top charters, and even a Grammy-nominated project here and there. As Grant and I envisioned, our idea would also promote a natural inclination for members to share resources to help one another.
At that very first Indie Collaborative in June 2015, a very gifted cabaret artist, based in Pennsylvania, was describing her professional conundrum to folks in the audience. She wanted to break into the NY cabaret market. It seemed a New York music critic agreed to review her work if she got herself a gig in Manhattan.
Without any previous New York City press, however, cabaret rooms in town weren’t interested. Another fellow overheard her frustration. Impressed with her earlier presentation, he made a call, and shortly thereafter, the Pennsylvania artist got her New York debut (and a fine New York music review).
Likewise, almost a year later, sitting next to me at an IC showcase in LA was a music manager. When he mentioned he lived in Bergamo, Italy, I started gushing about how much I loved visiting his fairytale-like town, outside Milan. We struck up a friendly conversation, and by the end, he said he wanted me to meet a colleague of his in New York.
That introduction led to a fabulous Indie Collaborative partnership with the dynamic host of Italian Radio Fantastica, Daniela Celella. Daniela regularly interviews our IC members on her show. It’s a fun-filled two hours about the sights and sounds of New York for her many fans in Italy. She hosts in both English and Italian. In addition, she highlights our music, new releases, and upcoming concerts every week.
I feel very lucky. My work has been honored with prestigious awards. Broadway stars sing my lyrics, and my books keep popping up all over the world! But none of it came easy or without frustration, disappointment, and genuine heartbreak (and it still doesn’t). No matter one’s circumstance, talent, or measure of luck, a career in the arts is precarious. Everyone gets knocked around with lots of “bruising” along the way. We all have battle scars. Perhaps, that’s the universal appeal of our IC mission.
Still, the ongoing evolution of the Indie Collaborative even surprises me. It’s been my honor to help create an organization that celebrates the passion and perseverance of independent artists around the world, who cheer, commiserate, and continually guide one another.
Q: What’s the story behind this concert?
ES: In November 2018, the Indie Collaborative made its Carnegie Hall debut when top charting Billboard artist Grant Maloy Smith, Grammy Award winner Wouter Kellerman and I joined forces to share three very distinct styles of song in one evening. Grant and his Nashville Band treated the audience to Americana roots.
I invited my Broadway pals to perform the music from the Bluestone Sisters’ musical theater catalog, while the incomparable Wouter Kellerman of South Africa delighted the audience with his award-winning world music repertoire for flute. We were not quite sure if such an eclectic program would work, but the audience response was a resounding Yes!
We decided to up the ante and create a musical celebration at Carnegie Hall for Earth Day, April 2020. Then, the world shut down. All concerts cancelled, first in April 2020. Then, in April 2021. But we know the virtues of patience and tenacity and now we have our Spring concert coming up in 2022.
Q: How did you select this cast which includes classical, jazz, roots, musical theater, Latin, pop, rap, and more?
ES: The Indie Collaborative not only fosters unique musical collaborations among independent artists but it also creates very supportive friendships.
As our international membership grows, (now 2000+) Grant and I have the good fortune to meet many, many extraordinary musicians from every corner of the globe. The many nationalities and cultures (not to mention musical styles) make each member singularly unique. That individuality guides our wish list when casting a concert.
Of course, who is available and in this case, can be in New York City on a given date, is a determining factor. For example, this particular concert will highlight the incomparable Leti Garza from Austin Texas, with her exciting Latin rhythms and poignant melodies, as well as award winning jazz artist Alan Storeygard from Arkansas, whose signature is reimagining classical piano for the jazz world. Joining them on stage is Broadway veteran, Ryan VanDenBoom (currently a featured performer in Broadway’s MJ), will add a bit of “song and dance” flair. In fact, we shall have over 20 award-winning artists.
Some will make their debut; others will be returning veterans to that beloved concert hall called Carnegie! We have top-notch Jazz and fusion guitarist Noshir Mody, Rapper extraordinaire Benjamin Lerner (the great grandson of Irving Berlin) whose driving spoken word (underscored with his classical contemporary piano) captures the pain and struggle of addiction recovery. For the more traditional music enthusiast, we have the multi-award winning Steinway Artist Sophia Agranovich plus multi-linguist, world-traveled artist David S. Goldman, whose versatility in music (Blues, Latin, Acoustic Rock, Pop/Jazz, World) matches his facility with language.
And of course, so much more! In brief, an evening with The Indie Collaborative offers something special for every musical taste!
Q: Why the themes?
ES: Our “Earth Day Celebration in Music” will be a first for The Indie Collaborative. In 2020, our concert was scheduled on the actual day (April 22, 2020). Two years later, we aren’t able to secure the official date, but our theme is important. We did not want to miss the opportunity to celebrate it in song. Besides, in the best of all worlds, everyday is Earth Day! And yes, we do like theme concerts.
Because our membership and music are so diverse, eclectic, and creative, we love to give a unique musical spin on classic traditions. For our show in April, we will explore the universal experience of all life on Earth… Beginnings (when all things are new, fresh, with endless possibilities) Reality (hardship, hard times, heartbreak) and Wisdom (using life experience to nourish the Earth and each other.)
Q: How do you plan your calendar?
ES: The Indie Collaborative produces both concerts” and showcases. Both are equally exciting and require lots of preparation but are rather different! A concert is curated and publicized to the public.
Grant and I choose a theme, a venue, and we select a cast from our membership. On the other hand, a showcase is about networking and introducing ourselves and our work to one another. If we have more than 20+ requests (which we always do), we use a lottery system.
Grant hosts the evening, and it always plants the seeds for new collaborations. Of course, it also “plants seeds” for Grant and me as to whom we might like to invite to perform in a future concert. When we first saw the exhilarating performance of Ricky Persaud, Jr. at a showcase, we knew we would want Ricky for our Carnegie Hall event.
Of course, artists’ friends and family are always welcome to join us at our showcases, but it really is all about meeting other artists. Our next showcase will be another IC first, when we co-host the evening (across the pond, as they say) with the amazing R&B artist, Trevor Sewell, in his hometown of Newcastle, UK in early summer 2023. Typically, we produce a showcase or a concert once a year.
Q: What collaborations emerged from all this?
ES: Indeed, many, many fabulous collaborations emerge all the time! A magnificent song, “ I See You,” which sheds light on the ugly truth about “ageism” will be performed at our concert. It was written by IC members, Mike Greenly and Grant Maloy Smith. Mike is an incredible lyricist and works with many different artists.
Likewise, Jazz and Cabaret favorite, Alex Otey, will not only perform his own work, “Love Matters More” but will serve as the musical director for the Bluestone Sisters’ Music that evening. Recently, Alex recorded (piano, trumpet, drums) for a new song, “We Talk Without Words,” written by the Bluestones and performed by “Jersey Boys” Tony Winner Christian Hoff and wife Melissa, which will be part of a new children’s album, “Arise Together,” (due for summer release) by two other IC members, Grammy-winning producer Kevin Mackey and international film director and producer Rupam Sarmah.
Sewell recently co-produced a Grammy-nominated song this year, written and recorded by another IC member — two-time Grammy nominee, Linda Chorney. When two-time Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari (recently seen at last season’s Lincoln Center concert) needed a choreographer for a new children’s video, she called on the services of IC member and Broadway and film veteran, Sonya Hensley. That’s just a few examples.
An on-going collaboration began some years ago at a small IC showcase in LA. I was seated next to a very friendly gentleman from Bergamo, Italy. He was a music manager, and his client (living in Hawaii) was performing at our L.A. showcase. We struck up a friendly conversation. By the end of the evening, he said he wanted Grant and me to meet a colleague of his in New York. That introduction resulted in a wonderful collaboration with IC member, Daniela Celella, who hosts Italian Radio Fantastica and features our IC and our music on her shows weekly.
Q: And what’s up for the future?
ES: Just like one of our shows, you never quite know what’s coming next from The Indie Collaborative. We do know our ranks keep growing and our members never cease to amaze (and inspire) with their glorious music.
To keep up with all the news, check out: https://www.indiecollaborative.com/
The Indie Collaborative Earth Day Concert: Various Artists, April 25th, 2022 at 8pm: Carnegie Hall, Box Office https://www.carnegiehall.org/Events